Wyatt Dickson is the “Barbecue Man” behind PICNIC in Durham, NC – one of the newest whole hog barbecue joints, recently praised in Time Magazine and Bon Appetit. His devotion to authentic wood-smoked barbecue can be traced from one stump speech to another. The son of a Fayetteville, NC judge and North Carolina Senator, Dickson’s youth was spent at pig pickin’s, surrounded by talk of politics – both the back & forth banter about candidates and the age-old debate over eastern vs. western North Carolina barbecue.

It may have been UNC fraternity brothers who first got a taste of Dickson’s whole hog barbecue, but during law school, Dickson developed a cult following catering “Pig Whistle Barbecue” for friends, family and eventually, chefs. Dickson’s ‘cue was the center of Lantern’s 10th anniversary celebration, and of many Carolina ‘Cue Wednesdays at Crook’s Corner in Chapel Hill. Today, Dickson’s whole hog barbecue can be found on the plate at PICNIC in Durham, NC, or on his “Pig Whistle” smoker in a nearby pasture.

For Dickson, North Carolina barbecue means oak-smoked, locally raised, whole-hog – that’s picked, never chopped. It’s a revival of the pig pickin’ – once a fixture of community and backyard gatherings across the state – where the butt, hams, loin, belly, cheeks, skin and ribs are all blended together to a smoky bliss.

Dickson partnered with former fraternity brother Chef Ben Adams and heritage hog farmer Ryan Butler to open PICNIC in 2016. There, they serve Dickson’s whole hog barbecue made exclusively from Butler’s pastured heritage breed pigs from Green Button Farm, raised on squash, pumpkins and acorns, developing rich flavors from their well-marbled fat, making them ideal for whole animal cooking.

On the table – alongside Adams’ braised collards and Brunswick Stew – guests will find Dickson’s sauce – ‘Pig Whistle: The Great Carolina Compromise’ – a recipe passed down from a State Highway Trooper to Dickson’s father back in the 1960’s. This sauce, which his family gifted to friends and family every Christmas, tops every whole hog barbecue bite and table at PICNIC.

Reverence for Wyatt Dickson’s whole hog barbecue is certain. John Shelton Reed awarded it “True ‘Cue” status, Garden & Gun heralded it as “Pen-to-Plate” and Southern Living praised it as “Next Generation ‘Cue.”

Look for the “Barbecue Man” at PICNIC in Durham or at their annual NC Barbecue Revival at Green Button Farm in October.

Follow ‘Barbecue Man’ Wyatt Dickson – don’t call him the “pitmaster”! – @thepigwhistle, @picnicdurham & on Facebook at Wyatt Dickson.

Photo by Sara Davis